History of Martin Luther King Day & Ways to Celebrate
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” -Martin Luther King, Jr.
How do we best recognize MLK’s fight for equality? Let’s take some time to learn more about Martin Luther King, Jr., the holiday in his honor, and ways we can celebrate his achievements.
Facts about Martin Luther King, Jr. & MLK Day
Here are a few facts about MLK Day and the American icon behind the holiday.
- Who is MLK? Martin Luther King, Jr. was an African-American Baptist minister and social activist who served as an invaluable spokesperson and leader in the civil rights movement. He was instrumental in helping pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his nonviolent means to end systemic segregation and racism.
- Dr. King or Reverend King? MLK’s full title is “Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr.” He is often referred to as either “Dr. King” because he earned a doctorate in systematic theology, or “Reverend King” because he was an ordained clergyman.
- When is MLK’s birthday? MLK was born on January 15, 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia.
- What is MLK Day? MLK Day is a federal holiday in the US that marks the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr. It is the only federal holiday observed as a national day of service.
- When is Martin Luther King Day? MLK Day falls on the third Monday of January each year.
- Do all 50 states recognize Martin Luther King Day? Yes, all states observe the holiday; however, it wasn’t officially observed by all 50 states until 2000, despite it becoming a federal holiday in 1983.
- When did Martin Luther King die? MLK was fatally shot on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee.
- Why do we celebrate Martin Luther King Day? We celebrate the day to honor MLK’s pursuit of justice and equality for all, and to reflect on his dream for a better world. Because it’s recognized as a national day of service, many spend the holiday volunteering in their community.
Ideas to Celebrate Martin Luther King Day
Here are a few ways you can celebrate MLK Day!
- March. In honor of Reverend King’s peaceful protests, participate in a Virtual MLK March or find a march in your community.
- Educate yourself. Read books by Dr. King and other black authors, go on a virtual tour of the National Civil Rights Museum, or watch films about MLK and the civil rights movement.
- MLK eCard. Honor Dr. King’s memory and send a free MLK Day eCard to share your thoughts on the day.
- Volunteer. Because MLK Day is a day of service, find a virtual or in-person volunteer opportunity you can participate in.
- Donate. Make a donation to an organization that supports racial justice and equality.
- MLK Birthday Celebration. A wonderful way for teachers and parents to introduce little ones to MLK and what he stood for is through a small party to celebrate his life and mission. Make food from different geographic regions or countries and use black, white, brown, red, and yellow-toned streamers and balloons to represent the diverse skin tones found across the country and world. Play Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and songs by musicians that sing about social justice. Cap the festivities off with peace-sign cupcakes.
- MLK Group Video. Have your friends, family, students, or community members create a group video in honor of MLK Day. Each participant can read their favorite Martin Luther King, Jr. quote for a nice collection, or share what Reverend King and his work means to them personally. Alternatively, the video organizer can assign each person 1-2 sentences from “I Have a Dream” to read, then combine all video clips into the full speech. Easily send the final group video to everyone who participated or share it with others outside your group!
We hope you were able to learn more about Dr. King and the importance of his dream and legacy, and can use some of these activities to celebrate his accomplishments. Happy MLK Day!